You're locked in a room with only 60 minutes until a hungry beast is released. All that stands between you and certain doom is your wits...and a handful of helpful clues scattered about the floor.
This is just one of many exciting scenarios that you could step into at your local escape room.
For those who haven't experienced this before, the idea is pretty simple;
To some, this may sound more like the stuff of nightmares than a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. So, why are escape rooms so popular? And, more importantly;
What can an escape room teach us about user experience?
A great deal as it turns out.
Let’s face it, if there really was a hungry beast about to be released, it's more likely that we’d be scrambling for the exits and running for the hills rather than trying to concoct a makeshift exit plan from bits of duct tape and newspaper clippings.
Good escape room architects are adept at making the experience immersive enough that we want to join in the action, but with enough constraints to remind us that we’re not in any real danger.
For example, on a recent visit to an escape room we pretty much fell at the first hurdle, the task was to arrange a few elements from the periodic table in a particular order. I was baffled, when suddenly a clue popped up on the TV screen. I stared blankly. Another clue appeared. Still not getting it. Finally a third clue came. That did the trick, we were on our way.
This example illustrates an important point, the staff were on hand to make sure our experience was smooth. Had they presented the clues at the beginning we would have felt belittled. Had they not given any at all, we would have felt abandoned.
The point? At times users will need your help, they may have a question, or they may get stuck somewhere on your website. When that happens a well-planned user experience will give them the help they need to move forward. A word of caution, be careful not to micromanage your users, they may feel belittled and go elsewhere. Conversely, be careful not to abandon them in the depths of an error page.
How does this work out practically? Make it easy for users to get in touch with you.
On occasion, people do get lost. Rather than have them fall through the cracks in your website into an error page, or worse get frustrated and leave, give them a way to search your site quickly and easily. If you remove some content, point them to an alternative.
People go to escape rooms primarily to be entertained. Feeling your pulse quicken as the clock ticks down, the thrill of solving a complex puzzle, knowing that you've beaten the room.
In a similar way, the user experience on your website can be entertaining. A website doesn't need to be all business. People enjoy being challenged so long as it doesn't get in the way of their goal. The secret is to provide enough fun to keep people interested while helping them progressively reach their goal.
How can you make your user experience fun?
When it comes to solving puzzles everyone has their own method. Some like to dive straight in and start working things out, others like to stand back and assess the scene before tackling the problem.
In like manner, no two users are the same. A good user experience strategy will give them a variety of ways to reach their goal.
In practice, this means having a good navigation structure on your website. It also means making important information clear and readily accessible.
Whether you like it or not your customers will have an experience when they come to you. Whether it's a good or a bad experience is largely up to you.
To increase the chances of your user having a good experience:
If you need help crafting a compelling user experience on your website please feel free to get in touch.